Monthly Archives: June 2014

The Internet, Spreading The Word & An American Receipe

On the 25th anniversary of the birth of the internet in March this year, the Independent published an article explaining how the Web began in the mind of Sir Tim Berners-Lee.

In the article (link here), there is one quote which sums up what good ol’ Tim was trying to achieve.

The quote, from 1989, offered “the hope would be to allow a pool of information to develop which could grow and evolve with the organisation and the projects it describe.”

Over the years, the founding father of the arguably the greatest creation since the Printing Press in the 1450s, must be proud of what he has created.

The Internet allows us to share our collective brain power, solve the answers to the world’s greatest problems, make this a better place to live.

Admittedly it also features a huge amount of Porn and a lot of spam, but you can’t have everything.

Additionally, one thing I love about the internet is the way ideas, instructions and much more is shared amongst cultures.

I’ve mentioned previously about a friend of mine based in America, and her quite frankly magnificent food blog.

Meals with Mel seems to have taken off big time. With some wonderful dishes, brilliant tips and stunning looking food, it’s always great to read what next is on offer.

It is about time though that I actually tried a dish. With that in mind, I went for a rather basic roasted green beans with bacon.

Taking instructions from this receipe I thought I’d give a relatively simple receipe a try.

Considering my skills as a chef are somewhat lacking, it’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

Pre-Oven, it looked okay…

American Dish

With 10 minutes left to go, it’ll be interesting to see how it turns out…

 

40 Minutes later…

It’s turned out all right in the end.

American Dish2

On reflection, Melody was right about the red pepper bits, they would’ve added to the mix. One idea from London might be to add a splash of white wine to the mix before baking. This would add a softer texture and a more fruity air to the meal.

Rather pleased though with the effort.

A receipe from one side of the world to the other. A sharing of ideas. I’m sure Berners-Lee would approve.

Cold Mountain

Cold-MountainCold Mountain (2003) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s hard to know where to start with “Cold Mountain”. It’s basically excellent.

In this film your faced with the ever popular story of the young in love couple, who yearn for each other across distances and change as people before meeting once more. Add to this mix an array of different characters with stories of their own and you basically have an Oscar’s favourite.

The thing with “Cold Mountain” is that I do find it very hard to judge, and I’m not surprised by it’s mixed reviews. This film for me is a display of how to do something technically very well. The acting is superb, the soundtrack excellent, and the general feel of the film stunning. The problem is that whilst some reviewers will use these qualities, some will look more to if it actually makes the mark with it’s plot. Truthfully, I find myself flipping either way between whether it does or not. The problem with the plot of “Cold Mountain” is that I can’t help but feel that it’s a bit too long. For all the random people in it, some of them do provide alternative viewpoints which are necessary, but some of them feel slightly too drawn out.

If I had to choose four things about this movie, which really make it stand out as a film to watch, I’d choose Jude Law, Nicole Kidman, the occasional beautiful landscape, and Cillian Murphy. To those who are unaware of who he is, your most likely to recognise the actor as Jim in “28 Days Later”, however he is also in another of this years big films as Pieter in “Girl With A Pearl Earring”. Murphy in “Cold Mountain” plays a Yankie fighter who finds himself at the home of Natalie Portman and who is starving. As his two friends forsake their morals for food and for sexual gratification, Murphy shows a sign that for all the fighting in the war, people on both sides have moral problems with events and find themselves unable to act upon others misdemenors.

Ultimately, I’d recommend to everyone that you go watch this film. For the romantics there is a beautiful love story, for the violence enthusiasts out there, there is a lot of fake blood and violence, and for those who want to know how to create a successful, technically superb movie, there is “Cold Mountain”.

The Last Samurai

The-Last-SamuraiThe Last Samurai (2003) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

From the moment I first heard of this film, I disliked it. I felt the idea of a film like this was hideous, and I felt for it to be staring Tom Cruise, well it was blatantly going to be just a vehicle for his self esteem. Cruise, to put it bluntly, is awful. There are two over rated actors out there who appear in films and have the exact same facial expressions throughout. These actors are Tom Cruise and Keanu Reeves, and I think they ruin a lot of good films.

So, with my dislike for Tom Cruise and my dislike for the idea of this film, I travelled to the cinema to watch this movie, took my seat, and for not the first time, was forced to eat my own words. Truthfully, I think this film is brilliant.

In “The Last Samurai”, Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren of the United States Army. Hired to teach the Japanese how to use modern warfare technology, Algren, a man with many painful memories, is placed in a battle against the revolutionary Samurai of Japan. Eventually captured, Algren is introduced to Master Katsumoto, played wonderfully by Ken Watanabe, and is slowly shown the way of the Samurai.

Ok, why is it that I enjoyed this film? Looking at the main star, looking at the basic plot, looking at practically everything about it, I should have come out of the cinema in unsurprised disgust. The strange thing is though, that if you get all the bad parts which make up this film, and put them all together, it somehow works. It’s like trying to create Frankenstein’s monster out of a body which had been buried for two years. Ultimately all the parts are rotten, but yet still manage to function. Cruise, whilst I do hate him, performs acceptably with his three facial expressions of smile, tear in eye and grit faced determination. The plot, despite being tacky and slightly over long has depth and quality. Even the blatant cheesyness of it all comes through with flying colours. This film is ultimately, good.

I suppose put under pressure, I could say there are one or two things which are wrong with this film. Billy Connolly’s voice in it is painful to hear and I’m grateful when he leaves the screen. The same is true for Timothy Spall at the beginning, but his voice seems to improve with time. The Emperor of Japan is awkward and infuriating, but I wonder if that’s not how he’s meant to be played. Other than these three characters, and the last ten minutes, though, I really can’t think of much bad to say about this film. So it’ll never win Oscars, watch me be proved wrong here again although I find this unlikely, and most of it is easy no brainer viewing, but for what it’s meant to be, I think it holds up quite well. Definately worth viewing.

Philadelphia

PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia (1993) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

It’s hard to say what I think of “Philadelphia”. I say to a lot of people that the better a film is, the less there is to say about it. The problem, as this film shows, is that simply that phrase doesn’t work. Whilst it’s true that for most films, having little to say shows that it’s been well made and there is nothing to complain about. With “Philadelphia”, it’s not accurate as all I want to do is sing the praises of Tom Hanks and Denzil Washington.

In this film, Hanks plays Andrew Beckett, an outstanding lawyer fired after the discovery that he is contaminated with the aids virus. Beckett seeks out Washington’s Joe Miller as a lawyer as he progresses to sue the company for wrongful dismissal.

First things first, lets be honest, Jonathan Demme took a huge chance directing a film about such a difficult matter, but fair play to him, he pulled it off. This film is a powerful, moving, eye-opening experience which will leave even the most unemotional person with a tear in their eye at one point or another.

Hanks, Best Actor at the Oscars for this film, is truely magnificant and worthy of his award. Washington too is superb as the homophobic lawyer being taught a thing or two about his beliefs.

Ultimately, I find very little wrong to say about this film. The last five minutes seem almost rushed, and it would have been nice to have seen the Company suffer a bit more, but ultimately, this film is worth it’s weight in gold and worthy of all the awards it picked up in it’s time. If you haven’t seen this film before, and I know for a guy who’s just watched it eleven years after it was first released this is hypocracy, but go out and rent it. “Philadelphia” is a gem.

Chicago

ChicagoChicago (2002) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

For a long time, this film has been something I’ve avoided. Don’t get me wrong, I’m an enourmous fan of musicals. “My Fair Lady”, “Les Miserables” and “Oliver Twist” are amongst my favourites, but this film just always looked awful to me. So, I hear you ask, why did I bother watching it?

Well simply put, I felt I kind of owed it to myself to see what it was like. I’ve known people avoid films for a long time expecting them to be awful, only to love them upon viewing. So today I sat down, I got myself a comfy chair, and I made the hard effort to actually watch Oscar’s beloved best picture. My final view of this film two hours later? Truthfully, I’m unsure what to make of it.

A lot of films I’ll sit and watch and I’ll either love from the start or hate from the start. In the case of “Chicago” though, something very unusual happened. For the first hour I sat, I vegetated, and I constantly pondered reaching for the remote and turning it off. For sixty minutes or so, I really do think this film is awful. Then for some unexplainable reason though, it seemed to begin to appeal to me, and the second half of it was a fully enjoyable motion picture event. Oscar winning material however? Not in the slightest. The Best Picture award is laughable, as was Catherine Zeta Jones’s award. To be brutally frank, if any award was due for this film, it was to John C Reilly who once again showed how good an actor he can be. Other than his performance though, the film seemed lacking in any markable levels.

Ultimately, I guess by the end, I must confess, to my ever lasting regret, to enjoy this film. It’s just a shame though that the first half was so abysmal. In total, hopelessly over-rated and Oscar needs to learn better.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

Love's-Labour's-LostLove’s Labour’s Lost (2000) – Originally written January 2004

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

All too often, Hollywood’s Shakespeare adaptations entertaining pieces of cinema. Beautifully shot they are well performed and faithful to the text. Films including Branagh’s “Henry V” and 1993’s “Much Ado About Nothing” are powerful pieces of work. Watching “Love’s Labour’s Lost” therefore, it’s such a huge disappointment for expectation to be so hideously thrown to waste. Sadly “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is awful! The King of Navarre (Alessandro Nivola) and his friends have forsaken drink and women for three years to focus on their studies. Plans begin to fall apart however when the enigmatic Princess of France (Alicia Silverstone) and her entourage arrive. Soon love is in the air and philosophy is off the Prince’s mind.

From the start, you realise that this film is not quite Shakespeare. Cleverly relocated into a 1930s musical by Ken Branagh, the plot is still there and the script remains, but now it has been sacrificed in favour of dire musical taste. Classics like “The Way You Look Tonight”, “Let’s Face The Music and Dance”, “I’m in Heaven” are all destroyed by weak singing and a strong feel that they just don’t belong here.

Aside from weak singing, we are also treated to an increasingly large number of awkward performances by regular stars. Ken Branagh and friends might enjoy making this film, but they provide us with a stomach turning collection of roles.

The main eight actors (four men & four women) are all equally dire, and the only positive on their behalf is a vast improvement on the truly dreadful Timothy Spall.

In fact, only one individual leaves the film worthy of any praise and that’s the consistently magnificent Nathan Lane. Lane has proved over the years that he is a comedy genius and in this feature he once again adds an air of humour to the jester Costard.

There’s little else to be said really. “Love’s Labour’s Lost” deserves mild praise for Branagh’s original take on an old tale. Unfortunately though, that’s where the positives end. Weakly acted, performed, sang and constructed, “Love’s Labour’s Lost” is perhaps the weakest Shakespeare adaptation of the last forty years. It should be avoided like the plague and should never have been made. A poor, disappointing choice by Branagh and here’s hoping his next effort is better.

Teamwork?

It’s so easy to undermine that feeling of team bonding that sport provides.

That unique collective feeling amongst a group who all aim for the same goals.

Tag Rugby, in it’s purest form, it provides me with this feeling. It helps me to work with friends for a greater good.

Saturday May 31st was one of these. A great day out, the team worked together to see what could be achieved. We played together, threw a ball around and eventually finished 4th out of 14. Even then, we were a bit robbed in the Semi Finals by some questionable refereeing.

Still, these photos sort of sum up the bond felt on that day. There’s a reason it was such a success.

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The Survey and the Occasional Remarkable Time it Seems to Work

Surveys…

Who are you? What is your favourite colour? Where should you live? What era should you have been born in? Which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle were you? If you were a type of vegetable, which would you be?

Okay, the last one is fictional, but the point is that surveys are everywhere.

Used to help companies gather information, they are often irrelevant, inaccurate pieces of rubbish which tell you nothing, whilst telling the survey creator everything.

Yes, surveys are for the most part some of the most meaningless and insulting things created by the modern marketing executive.

Sometimes though, just sometimes, one crops up that seems eerily accurate. That happened tonight when I filled in one in preparation for an interview tomorrow.

At 12pm on Monday 2nd June, I’ll be meeting a few guys from Stopgap Recruitment.

Stopgap are a Marketing Recruitment Firm based in Richmond, London. With rolls going in a variety of industries, they go out of their way to search through roles to find the perfect job for you.

On this occasion, they also asked me to fill out a Survey to help identify my personality.

For once, amazingly, this one was eerily accurate. It actually, is slightly scary.

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Based on what you’ve told us, your character type is Confidant

The Confidant has two contrary characteristics, curiosity and shyness. They love to know what’s going on, feel excluded if not kept informed but do not like to be the centre of attention. The Confidant always wants to be invited to the party – even though the chances are they won’t show up!

There is a sensitive, caring side to the Confidant that means they will see the interconnections between people and pick up on the verbal and non-verbal cues. The Confidant prefers not to be constrained by rules and regulations and does not like only routine. Others will see the Confidant as totally flexible, gentle and difficult to understand. The Confidant likes to do things in their own way and just get on with it, uninhibited and not micromanaged.

The Confidant would not appreciate criticism or a hard task-master. Yet there is a crusading side to the Confidant which would surprise even those who knew the person well. When a personal value, or belief is trodden on, then the Confidant can become more outspoken and vocal. Their values are usually so well hidden that the other person may not realise, but the Confidant becomes like a champion of the cause and will become expressive, animated and direct.

The Confidant values most those who take the time, trouble and effort to really get to know them. Only those who are allowed through the Confidant ‘assault course’ will get genuinely close. To others the Confidant will seem like a gentle enigma. The Confidant will often display their reactions to their feelings, rather than their actual feelings, and may bottle things up which will only become apparent later.

A Confidant does not like to be categorised. They value their autonomy, and feel ‘different,’ and any system, (including this one), which tries to ‘define’ or ‘explain’ them would be denigrated. The Confidant would say, ‘You can’t put me in a box, I’m different,’ indeed they would all say this.

WHAT YOU WILL SEE

The Confidant is a special, sensitive individual who needs a role that is far more than a job. The Confidant needs to feel that everything they do in their lives is in accordance with their strongly-felt value systems, and is moving them and/or others in a positive, growth-oriented direction. They are driven to do something meaningful and purposeful with their lives. The Confidant will be happiest in roles which allow them to live their daily lives in accordance with their values, and which work towards a vision or the greater good.

  • A strong value system
  • A warm and genuine interest in people
  • Service-oriented, usually putting the needs of others above their own
  • Loyal and devoted to people and causes
  • Flexible and laid-back, unless a ruling principle is violated – then crusading
  • Sensitive and complex, they want to be seen and appreciated for who they are
  • A dislike of detail and routine work, unless it contributes to the common good
  • Original and individualistic – ‘out of the mainstream’

WHAT COMES EASY

Confidants are driven by values and loyalty – they must ‘buy-in.’ Then they will work long and hard for the cause, often quietly behind the scenes and offering more than just getting the tasks done – they are like glue and offer support, help and empathy way beyond their job ‘remit.’ Cautious in the beginning of a relationship, a Confidant will be fiercely loyal once they are committed. Confidants are adaptable and congenial, unless a principle has been violated, in which case they become uncharacteristically harsh and crusading defenders of their values.

  • A warm and genuine concern about others
  • A sensitivity and perceptiveness about what others are feeling
  • Loyalty and commitment
  • Striving for ‘win-win’ situations
  • Nurturing, supportive and encouraging
  • Flexible and caring
  • Quickly understanding different situations and grasping new concepts
  • Doing something that seems truly important to them

WHAT NEEDS DEVELOPING

The Confidant is extremely complex being deep and private yet needing to know and (more importantly to them) feel they belong. This sense of belonging brings out all their best qualities and they will offer long-term commitment and loyalty way beyond what we could reasonably expect. However they do not like work for work’s sake nor feeling undervalued or just one of the masses. The Confidant is special and s/he will need to feel connected up to the inner core of the organisation and feel certain that what they do (however mundane) has real meaning and value to them.

  • Being open and sharing feelings, thoughts and views
  • Being open to the involvement of others, welcoming others into the group
  • Confronting difficult situations/conflict head on rather than avoiding it
  • Needing to receive praise and approval
  • Focussing on logical/objective criteria during stressful situations
  • Taking time out to recognise their own value/contribution in a given situation
  • Being aware and allowing for how their own style impacts on others

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Despite a few minor spelling errors (pretty sure “Focusing” has one S), the report feels at times a bit eerie. It feels like a strange psychological evaluation of me really.

Parts are incorrect, like the idea of not being categorized for example. I’d actually suggest that deep down we all want to feel like we are cataloged into a specific genre/type/brand. Hence doing quizzes like this. I think it helps us to identify who we are and what we want to do with our lives. I think it is a fascinating update of the tribal situation. Just like how people can group themselves together as “Harlequins Fans” or “Geeks” or a variety of other selections. From a social purpose, it helps us to know who we are and what we want to be.

This need to belong is ingrained in all of us to some degree, so to not want to be “in a box” is not necessarily true.

Still, one minor inconsistency aside, the quiz makes for fascinating reading and on this one occasion, well worth giving a go.

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